Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Philosophers Were Right

I can't quite remember which philosopher talked about this first or in the most detail (Nietzsche's a possibility but so is W.V.O. Quine), but there's a fairly respected idea that states all thought is preceded by belief. If you say something like, "The sun rises in the east," whether this is true or not you are, in fact, saying, "I believe the sun rises in the east." With scientific facts their truthfulness isn't terribly debatable but even there you have to believe the facts are true. And even when you knowingly lie you have to believe what you say is a lie.
So it doesn't come as a surprise that when studying belief and disbelief as it relates to the brain you would find the region of the brain attached to belief would act the same way whether that belief was logical or emotional. Now Sam Harris is an ardent atheist and someone who has debated Andrew Sullivan on religion so one would think that such results would please Harris. However, what the results show is that the philosophers were right to say that belief precedes all thought. And once again the philosophers lead the way in the study of the mind. I do so love it when that happens.