Beliefs about "what should be" leads to beliefs about "what is"?
April 15, 2015 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Is there any academic argument or scientific evidence that what people believe about "what should be" leads them to develop underlying beliefs about "what is" in reality? A kind of worldview conditioning? Conceptually, this would be an inversion of the naturalistic fallacy (which goes from "what is" to "what ought"). Does such a thing happen?
posted by tybeet to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Something like "ought implies can," from Immanuel Kant?
posted by decathecting at 5:53 PM on April 15, 2015

Wasn't that pretty much the argument made in C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christiantiy"? Though I expect that argument is generally made after one has reached it's conclusion by other means.

Wikipedia summarizes the argument.
posted by smcameron at 5:56 PM on April 15, 2015

This sounds like it's related to both the Appeal to consequences fallacy and the Just World hypothesis, so maybe consider looking into these.
posted by littlegreen at 6:10 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Interesting. Is there anything like this operating outside of the moral domain?

Let's say you've been plunked down into a culture that you know nothing about, at a young age. This culture has a certain norm/custom that you've adopted, which you've been told is your moral obligation to do, though you've never explicitly been told the reason why you should do it. Do you internalize what that behaviour implies about the world around you? For example, let's say this behaviour involves efforts towards the conservation of a resource. Do you internalize the view that said resource exists in a scarce quantity?

To give a more concrete example... if you are told as a child "thou shalt not masturbate" without being given any reason, will you begin to perceive that semen is a scarce resource? (Apparently the belief that semen is scarce is actually a thing in some societies...)
posted by tybeet at 6:10 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ah!! This is such an interesting question! If I interpret correctly, you're asking two question - 1) do "ought" norms (proscriptive rules) come to have legitimizing beliefs (that is, beliefs that change how we understand reality that legitimize those rules/norms)? and 2) if so, how does that happen?

I think (1) is definitely a yes. They're often called legitimizing beliefs (or legitimizing myths), but it does seem common that individuals will live according to some rules or norms and then begin to adopt beliefs that validate those norms. Examples can range from the myths people concoct and believe to maintain some of the inequality in society (e.g., Manifest Destiny, the Protestant Work Ethic, racist beliefs rooted in "biological superiority", etc.) to the mythology of many religions to even how children legitimize rules when they play games ("five-year-olds can only play with this - not four-year-olds - they'll hurt themselves" or whatever).

(2) is a fascinating question. How do we come to adopt false beliefs that, in some cases, (a) seem to legitimize norms that benefit us, but in other cases, (b) seem to justify norms that seem pretty arbitrary (e.g., that there's a "right" way to put toilet paper on a roll, or something) (maybe that's not the best example)?

For (a) [how do we adopt false beliefs that legitimize rules that benefit us], one idea is self-deception, which means that people will trick themselves so as to better trick others. The notion here is that an individual will adopt and argue a false belief, but that they do that because it makes it easier to deceive other people. Self-deception is a pretty hip topic in some psychology circles right now - I think people are testing it, but I don't know how good the evidence is. Here's a book. It's especially interesting because in some cases, it looks like people adopt a legitimizing belief, argue it heavily, use to convince others, and then drop it when it stops serving them well.

(b) is harder. Why do we internalize and legitimize norms when they seem arbitrary to our own self-interest? One thing people talk about a lot with this is coordination. The idea here is that you coordinate our own actions and life on this expectation that a norm is a certain way and that everyone acts according to certain standards of behavior that you understand (e.g., no one masturbates). All of your choices and decisions are made contingent on this expectation, and thus, all else being equal, you would rather things stay the same than change. In other words, you are at a relative advantage under the current set of rules compared to when they shift and leave you unprepared. This then shifts the argument back to (a) - i.e., it benefits you to try to keep rules and norms as they are, especially as you get more and more used to them, which should lead you to legitimize them and convince others to stick to em.

I really hope I understood your question correctly!! You can message me if you have more questions (I find these topics fascinating!)!
posted by mrmanvir at 7:41 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

fwiw, the conceptual reverse of the naturalistic fallacy is termed the "moralistic fallacy"
posted by 7segment at 8:40 PM on April 15, 2015

Well, suppose you think that morality is dependent on the mental states of God. (So you're some sort of divine command theorist.) And thou think that there are moral facts. It follows that God exists.

Kant thought it was necessary to believe God exists/for God to exist in order to have morality.

Suppose you think that there are facts about actions being right or wrong. You might then think there are events and properties and propositions or facts or both.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:44 AM on April 16, 2015

You are describing religion.

The "just world" fallacy is central to most of them.
posted by spitbull at 5:18 AM on April 16, 2015

If I understand you correctly, I call this "self fulfilling prophecy." I see this over and over, that people who expect a certain outcome tend to make choices in a way that increases the likelihood of that outcome occurring. They tend to frame their views in terms that are very here and now: that this IS true right now, and thus this other thing WILL BE true in the future and there is no point in bothering to try to do things differently because you can't stop it anyway.

The book "Quantum Healing" might interest you.
posted by Michele in California at 2:50 PM on April 16, 2015

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