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Wishes, Beliefs, and Knowledge

Published 6/15/2020

In this short episode, we're digging into the relationship between our belief and knowledge and how we form our beliefs based on knowledge. 


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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Your actions and your beliefs have a strong relationship to each other. In today's episode, we're going to investigate a little bit about how beliefs are formed. This is a short episode of Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. Before we get started today, I want to remind you about JS Nation Live. You can get free tickets for the biggest JavaScript conference in the cloud, heading over to live.jsnation.com. Registration is totally free. It's happening on June 18th through the 19th. Besides the top notch talks that you'll be able to watch, the event will also hold workshops, virtual networking, and an advice lounge where personal projects can be discussed with the experts. Once again, live.jsnation.com. Let's talk briefly about our beliefs and how our beliefs can influence our actions. When we talk about beliefs, we need to understand that a belief is not required to be a statement of logic. However, knowledge is required to be a statement of logic. When we talk about beliefs, we often conflate what is a belief and what is knowledge. Very often, we also mix what we wish to be true with beliefs. We run into this continuum, a continuum from what we wish to be true, our desires, to something that we believe, which may or may not even be possible to be true. Then something that we know, something that we can observe, and then we can reliably transfer that knowledge, or we can disprove or invalidate that knowledge. This is called falsifiability. This continuum is important because once again, we often get confused. We often try to push the things that we want to be true into the category of knowledge. We also often push the things that we believe into the category of knowledge as well. On the flip side, we may have the tendency of taking what other people say they believe, or what other people say even that they know and devaluing it or bringing it back down that chain towards something they wish, something that they believe for some unknown reason. Then we'll even blame their character. In fact, we do the character blaming so often that it's an observable phenomenon called fundamental attribution error. We assign blame for somebody's ridiculous beliefs to who they are as a person. This is very often not true. Why do we do this? It helps to understand why we do things to be able to understand how we might combat doing these same things. Because hopefully you agree if you're listening to this, that confusing this continuum can be really dangerous to our actions. Once again, our beliefs influence our actions. If we operate on something that we wish was true as if it was true, then we might operate with a lack of understanding. When we operate with a lack of understanding, we might try to do something to achieve an outcome. Because we're trying under the wrong pretense, as we're trying with the wrong information, we may be taking ourselves further away from the goal or at least going parallel to the line that might lead us to the goal. Why do we do this? At a very basic level, we want to classify things in as binary of terms as we can. The gray area of belief and the gray area of desire are dangerous territory. We don't want to talk to others about the things that we believe but are willing to accept that they may not be true. Because that's not really actionable information and it's not really reliable. Degrees are shifting ground. If you talk about things that you believe and you accept that they may not be true, then you're kind of discrediting yourself. In a social context, this is a dangerous thing to do. Explaining that your beliefs are not synonymous with the truth, accepting that in a social context can be scary. This is in many ways the definition of vulnerability, showing your own weakness and in this particular way, showing your intellectual weakness. This is incredibly important to understand because we are afraid of showing that intellectual weakness and instead of showing weakness in a social context and by the way, when we say social, we are including all of our interactions with basically any other human. That's where I'm afraid of that. In order to avoid it, we convince ourselves of things that aren't true or at least we convince ourselves of things without having reliable evidence that they are true. It's not to say that our beliefs are never knowledge. It's not to say that even the things that we want to be true are not necessarily knowledge. Those things can overlap. We may want something to be true. That is true. But we can just as easily believe something without knowing the evidence. So how do we avoid this? Well, quite simply, it makes sense to become more and more comfortable with that vulnerable setting, with accepting that very often the things that you believe, even things that you believe very strongly may be false or they may at least be incomplete. We have to become more comfortable with our own insufficiencies, even in these social contexts. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. This little bit shorter of an episode. If you enjoyed this episode, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you're currently using. Go and check out all of the other incredible shows on the spec network, head of to spec.fm to learn more about incredible content made just for designers and developers who are looking to level up in their careers. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. This episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.